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Nancy Smith

Will the Feds Just Let the Everglades Die?

September 5, 2015 - 5:45pm

Federal bureaucracy trumps science, it trumps common sense, it trumps public sentiment. Federal bureaucracy is the monster killing the Florida Everglades. I've been saying that for years. On Thursday in Fort Lauderdale at a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) meeting, the woeful state of the world's largest wetlands at the hands of the feds was made about as public and as plain as it's going to get.

With prolonged higher rainfall, as South Florida is receiving right now, comes too much freshwater in the Everglades. North of  the Tamiami Trail, animals fight for their life in deep water. But thanks to federal regulations, water isn't allowed to flow south into Everglades National Park, where it could save a freshwater-dependent ecosystem dying of thirst.

The feds say no in all kinds of ways. 

One part too wet, the other part too dry, federal bureacracy too arrogant. 

That's what the conversation was all about at the FWC meeting. The commission's South Regional Director Ernie Marks, who has worked closely on Everglades issues with FWC Commissioner "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, presented a disturbing look at Everglades water levels and the many components of restoration in the big swamp.

When high water persists, as it did in 2013, it kills fur-bearing animals in the Everglades and impacts wading birds and tree islands for the worse. Marks reminded participants of another time of sky-high water levels  -- 1994-95, when deep water caused the death of 159 white-tailed deer.

Bergeron said a short period of high water in the Everglades isn't going to do a lot of damage. But federal agencies should  damn the regulations and let water flow south into the park when water levels don't drop on their own.

"An analysis of water levels in the 'Glades since 1943 shows that having no more than 2 feet of water is ideal." But, he said, when water gets to 3 feet, wading birds have no place to stand.

Panthers used to prowl the water conservation areas, he said. But after the high water of 1994-95 decimated their food sources, they moved to the Big Cypress National Preserve.

"For us to manage the wildlife, you have to have healthy habitat," Bergeron said. "We have to decide if we're going to have Everglades restoration or an Everglades reservoir."

Federal bureacracy at work: Federal agencies involved with Everglades restoration, including the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, don't care if the water conservation areas drown and the park becomes parched because, they say, phosphorus levels are not yet low enough in the water that would be sent into the park.

The levels get lower every year. But they're not low enough for the feds.

Like Bergeron and other commissioners, Capt. Rick Murphy of the "Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report" suggested that sending the water south with a little more phosphorus than desired would do much less damage than depriving Everglades National Park and its wildlife and too-saline Florida Bay and its fish of fresh water.

Federal bureaucrats are hastening the demise of the Florida Everglades.

I trust Ron Bergeron. He lives the tragedy most Floridians never see. If he tells us that at critical rainy periods, state agencies ought to be able to save animal lives, feed the national park and help Florida Bay -- believe him. 

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith




Many of us have been fighting this battle for years. We couldn't even get cooperation from DOI when Jeb's brother was President.

It seems as if the one thing we can agree on is that if the federal or state government have any involvement that it cost ten times the estimated cost, takes ten times the estimated time, a few people get rich and the project fails. Miserably. The leaders of the Corps of Engineers should be in federal prison. The reason Katrina was so devastating was that the levees's failed. Guess who built them? The Glades are way down the priority list in this game of musical chairs. Like I suggested, maybe the male cobra will mate with a female python. Wouldn't that be peachy keen.

"With prolonged higher rainfall, as South Florida is receiving right now" ...but... this is one of the driest seasons in recent record?! I regularly attend meetings at the South Florida Water Management District and they report that rain levels we are seeing are very low.

Feds are also behind coral bleaching along the coasts (Orlando treated sewage dumping from Kissimmee thru Okeechobee and glades to Fla Straits; S Fla and cruise ship sewage pumped off SE coast) and local intracoastal flooding in Miami (Everglades canal water colliding with artificial islands, shipping lanes cut in Biscayne Bay)-- but the gov't blames "climate change" LOL

I want to know why the various federal agencies "regulating" the everglades, and places like them, have a 100% record of doing the wrong thing(s). I am astounded and have been for years. They agencies would have to be really competent in their analysis to get it wrong all the time.

If resorts, water parks, Marinas, Condos, with service industries shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc. does that make the Everglades die? I think it would bring life to it.

I am afraid it is too late for the Glades. Starting with Napolean Broward they have been the victim of politicians and lobbyists. Some of them were well intentioned but wrong, some of them vile and evil. Take your pick. The real death knoll of the Glades was in the early 60's when Walt Disney, in a style reminiscent of Henry Flager, bought the Florida Legislature and created the Reedy Creek Water Management District. Where Disney sits today is the historic origin of the Glades. The Kissimmee prarie. The Harris Chain of Lakes. Best thing that could happen to natural Florida and probably the only thing that could save the Glades would be a cyber attack that shut down the Florida power grid. Without power we would have 5 million people and not 20 million people. Short of that, the pythons will inherit. We are not even smart enough to catch reptiles. And now add a cobra to the mix! Without the political WMD's and the legislature, in a few years things would sort themselves out. In the end, water will go where it wants to. It will here too.

Nancy; A great article that points out the difference between Government's [State & Federal] "Science" and reality. The idea that "Public Opinion" should be given significant credence, would have to rely on their being fed the whole truth, something that never has been the case ! Joe

Another garden variety, disingenuous comment from the standard issue GOP "Heritage Foundation" playbook. It's always the "Feds", not Florida political dysfunction.. Anything to remove pragmatic government oversight over our State's natural resources while Florida's natural heritage is destroyed by unaccountable, big money interests. Our race to the bottom continues.

Robert; If really interested in all "factual" aspects of FL. water, why not send me a general note to Both Federal and State agencies have not been honest with citizens like you. Joe

Why have any phosphorous or anything else flow into the glades, Lets shut down the polluters just like the government agency's would do to a private small business that might be polluting the Everglades. Lets also lets the water flow go as it has historically in the past. SWFM has been measuring the stats of water flow for years. If we would also burn a lot of the saw grass in the new east everglades this would help to better filter the phosphorous water that might get through the southern flow.

And how about the State of Florida, as directed by your favorite Governor Scott, Nancy? As he systematically guts FDEP, the remnants of the old Dept. of Community Affairs, and the WMDs.

And here I thought it was the developers, working their money and their lobbies within the State of Florida and the local south Florida counties and the local south Florida towns, back in the 1950s and 1960 that "hastened the demise of the Everglades". ""For us to manage the wildlife, you have to have healthy habitat," Bergeron said. "We have to decide if we're going to have Everglades restoration or an Everglades reservoir."". Well, yeah, but even before that you have to have ANY habitat, and that option disappeared long ago too. And, in The End --back in the 1990s, we did decide whether we were going to have Everglades restoration or an Everglades reservoir. We ---uhhh, they--- chose reservoirs. FLORIDA --if you're looking for placing blame, look in the dusty mirror.

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nancy smith


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